Unpleasant emotions are like the game “hot potato.” In our desire to get rid of them, we often try to hand them off to someone else. Anxiety in particular gets tossed around between people. It generally takes the form of, “I don’t like the way I feel, so you better fix it by changing who you are.” This usually does not end well.
Granted, there are times when a valid complaint is in order. If someone is standing on my foot, it is reasonable to ask them to move. However, there are many feelings we need to deal with on our own. It is a sign of maturity to be able to manage one’s emotions. The immature person constantly expects others to change in order to be soothed.
Of course, people need to be able to sooth and console each other. Nevertheless, becoming dependent on others for soothing is not what grown-ups do. Take responsibility by learning to manage your own emotions. It will make you a better person and partner.
Now that many people are stuck at home together, a few relationship tips might be helpful.
Remember the three basic categories of care: self-care, couple-care and family-care. Try to find time to attend to each category.
As individuals, we all need varying degrees of social and alone time. Honor each other’s different needs and try not to take it personally if your partner wants to take a solitary walk around the block or sit behind a closed door for a while. Later you can walk or sit together.
If nerves become frayed while trying to balance family and work responsibilities, remember that the key to success is to attack the problem, not each other. Keep your lines of communication open by being kind and respectful to each other. Empathy and gratitude go a long way in healing or, best of all, preventing hurtful words.
Try to have your days somewhat scheduled so that everyone understands what the expectations are for work and/or school. Structure helps to mitigate assumptions and keep everyone informed. The schedule can include “quiet time” where all electronics are turned off. Read books or play board games. Use the new state of affairs to reclaim family dinner time, something the electronic age has largely robbed us of. Get everyone involved in domestic chores such as preparing and cleaning up after dinner or doing laundry.
A crisis tends to either bring people closer together, or push them apart. Use your new-found physical proximity as an opportunity to discover the art of family closeness and conversation. Don’t retreat into the virtual world of electronics where the personal touch of life tends to evaporate. Take advantage of the time by actually living and loving as a family.